A Wrinkle In Time – Madeleine L’Engle
It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.
"Wild nights are my glory," the unearthly stranger told them. "I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract."
Meg's father had been experimenting with the tesseract—a fifth dimension of time travel—when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?
Review: This is a hard review to write because A Wrinkle in Time is a children’s book, but my adult brain keeps getting in the way.
I vaguely remember a teacher reading this book to my class when I was very young. It must not have had a huge impact on me because all I remembered about it were the three annoying witches who abandon some children on a dystopian planet. I guess child-me wasn’t impressed with this story.
Here’s a real summary: Meg’s father is a scientist who disappeared years ago while studying time travel. The family has not given up hope that he will come home. One day, three mysterious women turn up in Meg’s neighborhood and tell the family that the “tesseract”—the scientific phenomenon that Meg’s father had been studying—is real. Meg’s father is trapped on a distant planet. It’s up to Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and her friend Calvin to save him. This book was first published in 1962.
There is so much in this novel that I either missed as a child or forgot. I think this book is read in schools because it covers a wide range of subjects: science, math, language, history, philosophy, and religion. The child characters are extremely intelligent and not ashamed of their intelligence. They are most definitely nerds. Meg is an average-looking girl who loves math and has some anger problems. Charles Wallace uses big words and easily understands complicated concepts, but he’s arrogant. I think it’s helpful for real children to see fictional children who have a variety of strengths and weaknesses.
This book is a fun space-travel adventure story, but after I finished it, I started to feel irritated. It took me a while to figure out why. I think it’s because everything in this book is oversimplified.
I’m aware that this story is a product of the Cold War, and many people consider it a Christian book that conforms to a Christian worldview, but I have issues with labels like “Good” and “Evil.” I don’t think the universe is that simple. In the book, there is a villain called IT. IT has turned a planet full of people into cartoonish communist robots. The only explanation that’s given for IT’s behavior is “IT’s evil.” That bothers me. Even children’s books should have complex villains with believable motives. I have no idea what’s motivating IT to create communist robots.
The villain isn’t the only thing that bothers me about this novel. The educational aspects of the book are so heavy-handed that I think many children would be turned off by them. They disrupt the plot and start to feel like a school lecture. The story also doesn’t have much internal logic. It never explains why an adult can’t save Meg’s father or why the witch/angel/alien ladies can’t give Meg and her friends more help. Finally, I’m not sure what purpose Calvin serves in the story. All he does is hold Meg’s hand whenever she gets hysterical. I often forgot that he was even in the book.
So, obviously this isn’t my favorite children’s novel, but I’m going to read the next one in the series. I think the next book was published about 10 years after this one, so I’m interested to see if it’s different.